20 August 2009

Blindfolded Witnesses

A documentary on political prisoners in Iran 1981–1991

Just as the study of tree-rings allows scientists to understand the present in historical context with the conditions of the past, former political prisoners of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s prison system must undergo the same process in order to reconcile their tortured past with the present. In the video “Blindfolded Witness,” seven former Iranian political prisoners tell their personal stories of life behind Iran’s prison walls. Each strives to answer a simple question posed by Jorge Luis Borges: “What will die with me, when I die?”

For background, these individuals endured on average 10-years of imprisonment during the period of 1981-1991. Years such as 1983 and 1988 were particularly brutal when mass executions occurred. The mass executions in 1983 were meant to dehumanize the prisoners. When visits between prisoners and their families were eventually allowed, two lines formed outside the prison walls: one line for those who survived and the other for the executed. During the 1988 mass executions, parents weren’t allowed to visit their loved ones in prison. The only way they knew about the status of a loved-one was whether or not a postman arrived at their door carrying a letter sent from the prison. Sometimes executions were announced only in the media, so many parents had to read the newspapers to see if their loved-ones were alive. During some years of this era, Wednesdays served as the day of execution when names were called out over a loudspeaker. On other occasions, executions were simply announced by the hail of gun shots, with the last shot used to finish off the prisoner.

Let Tahmineh explain to you her experience with “torture orders” and how it necessitated the wear of a pair of large men’s slippers. Learn what “beatings to death” meant when interrogators could beat someone until they got information or until the prisoner was dead. Hear what Pardeh-dari (canvas play) was and what the terms “graves,” “coffins,” and “boxes” referred to. Learn why people celebrated when they were sentenced to 5, 10, or 12 years in prison. Let Manouchehr explain why the bruises on his wrists lasted for years. And, if the psychological torture inflicted on these prisoners were not enough, many did go insane or experienced mental breakdowns, listen to their stories of young children being raised in this inhumane environment and the psychological impact it created.

As the narrator of these interviews states, the goal of torture is to: 1) destroy the prisoner’s physical strength, and 2) transform them into a different being. This process begins at the moment they’re detained until the time of their release from prison. Words alone cannot describe the horrific experiences these former detainees endured, but one thing is known—these experiences were all created by an Islamic Republic regime—in the name of religion. Their experiences of imprisonment and torture will stay with them until their last breath, but silence only nourishes a tumor that grows and eventually destroys from the inside. This only fosters continued injustice for the victim.

via Association of Iranian Political Prisoners (in Exile)

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